Twin Bills Giving States Option to Legalize Marijuana While Taxing Sales at the Federal Level Are Proposed in Congress

iStock_000004478097XSmall (3).jpgAmid a growing movement to legalize marijuana for personal use, two bills were recently proposed in the U.S. House of Representatives that would give states the option to legalize medical or recreational marijuana use, but would require each state to levy federal taxes on all marijuana sales.

The twin bills work in conjunction with each other and were introduced by Representatives Jared Polis of Colorado and Earl Blumenauer of Oregon, both Democrats. One bill proposes to allow states to exercise jurisdiction over marijuana and regulate it in a way similar to alcohol, effectively ending the federal ban on pot. The second bill would levy a federal tax over state marijuana sales, providing a lucrative tax resource in a time of increasingly tight government budgets. A similar bipartisan effort in the House of Representatives failed in 2011, but with an increasing number of states decriminalizing or legalizing marijuana it is inevitable that this bill, or one like it, will eventually pass on the federal level.

Meanwhile in Colorado and Washington, where citizens voted to legalize marijuana in 2012, state legislators, growers, providers, law enforcement agents and both medical and recreational marijuana users are wondering how to navigate the conflicting state and federal marijuana laws. The U.S. Justice Department has yet to clarify its stance on the issue, but President Barack Obama has said it does not make sense for the federal government to focus on recreational drug possession in states that have modernized their marijuana laws, given increasingly limited government resources and growing public acceptance of marijuana use.

Further, it has been estimated that replacing marijuana prohibition with a system of legal regulation would save over $7.7 billion in prohibition enforcement expenditures — $2.4 billion at the federal level and $5.3 billion at the state and local levels. Taxing marijuana sales in a manner similar to alcohol and tobacco would raise an estimated $6.2 billion. Despite these realities, federal drug officials have classified marijuana as a highly addictive illegal drug with no accepted medical use since 1970.

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Drug Related Charges may include: Possession of Marijuana, Possession of Controlled Substance, Possession of Dangerous Drug, Manufacturing a Dangerous Drug/Controlled Substance, Delivery or Intent to Deliver Marijuana/Dangerous Drug/Controlled Substance, Possession of Drug Paraphernalia and many other drug related charges.